As places begin to hopefully open where you are, one of the things that should be opening is the gym.
Maybe you’ve gained a few pounds during quarantine (no judgment). Maybe you’re like me, where you keep wanting to get in shape and know that the gym is probably one of the best places to do it but you’re reluctant and intimidated.
Whatever the reason, I’m glad you’re here for this post! I bought a gym membership three weeks ago when the gyms near me started reopening. I’ve been going often, and I’m proud of the progress I’ve been making.
But today’s post is not about me. I get that the gym can be intimidating, so today I have put together a little guide to help you out if you’re new to the gym. I’ll include everything from what to pack in your gym bag, motivation tips, workout advice, and just general advice! Here’s “A Beginner’s Guide to the Gym”!
The first tip I can offer is to DO YOUR RESEARCH. Seriously. If you’re going to buy a gym membership, find out about the gym first. This includes time it takes you to get there, amenities offered, contracts (if applicable), price, fees, hours, and pictures. Get comfortable with the gym because hopefully you’re going there a lot.
What to Pack in your Gym Bag
Now that you have selected a gym, you need to prepare and pack for the gym.
- Comfortable shoes- Honestly, shoes can make or break a workout. If your feet are hurting, then you’re going to be less likely to work and push yourself harder. I actually use two different pairs because my normal gym shoes aren’t the best for my walking day (I’ll come back to that in a bit).
- Headphones- Music or some kind of noise (podcasts, etc.) are vital for a good workout. If you’re going for music, find stuff that’s upbeat AND that you like. Don’t listen to rap if you’re not into rap, even though it has a good beat. There’s lots of ideas on both Google and Pinterest, and most music-streaming apps have ready-made playlists available if you don’t feel like making one. Also, when it comes to headphones or earbuds, I prefer mine to be Bluetooth wireless that way I can move unrestricted.
- Deodorant- Working out at the gym makes you sweaty. Sweat smells. Deodorant is a good way to combat that. I keep some in my bag even though I usually go straight home afterwards.
- If you’re showering at the gym or just get really sweaty, towels/ shower supplies- Towels are good to wipe off the excess sweat as long as you don’t use it for anything else. Gyms don’t often supply shower stuff like soap, so you need to bring your own. Travel or trial size bottles are just fine. They save space and are cheaper.
- If needed, braces- I injured my wrist and ankle in high school. Neither of them bother me most days, but I have the braces I needed back in high school in my gym bag. This way, if something does go wrong, then they’re right there in my bag if or when I need them.
- Lastly, a lock- It doesn’t have to be anything high-end or fancy. Most gyms will have lockers for you to put your stuff in. The most valuable thing that goes in my locker is my keys and wallet, which I know realistically isn’t much. But it gives me some peace of mind knowing that my stuff is locked away.
You’ve picked out a gym, and your gym bag is all packed and ready to go. Now I’m going to talk about how to actually get into the gym.
- Make it consistent- Dedicate a specific time each day you plan to be in the gym. Some people like to go to the gym before work. Some go on lunch break. Some go at the end of the day. Whatever you choose, work towards the same time period. Right now, I like to do it when I get up/ before lunch. That leaves me the rest of the day to do other things and projects. When I start working, I’ll probably do it once I’m done for the day.
- Don’t rely on motivation- Yes, I know this is motivation tips. But hear me out. If you’re waiting until you’re motivated, then you’ll never get into the gym. Or you’ll only get in there very rarely. Instead…
- Focus on accountability- Some people don’t like going to the gym by themselves. If that’s the case, find someone with a similar schedule who would be willing to workout with you so you can go at the same time. I know some people post their workout on social media. Personally, I make each day as part of my weekly to-do list. It gives me something to check off. Hold yourself accountable, knowing that consistency is key. Going only when motivated will be sporadic at best.
- Know what you’re working towards- Don’t just go to the gym because you feel you should. Are you looking to lose weight, increase strength, boost endurance, improve flexibility, or just stay active? Why are you going? If you’re able to identify it, it will help you to make a change and actively work towards that goal.
So you’re in the gym and there are all these machines and weights. It can be a little intimidating, and you don’t know where to begin. Let me help.
- Find things you like- What’s nice about the gym is that there are stuff for all kinds of people. For me, I don’t enjoy running, so I don’t do a lot of running. My cardio options are fast-paced walking, biking, or rowing. Make it enjoyable rather than a chore. But those options bring me to my next tip:
- Mix it up- Unless you’re training for a specific event, you shouldn’t do the same thing every day. It’s going to wear out your muscles, and you probably won’t see as much progress. Now there’s nothing wrong with training, but it’s not always the best way to go.
- Add strength training- I don’t care what goal you’re going for. I know I’m probably going to get some hate for this. I don’t care. Strength training is important for any and all goals. It can just be five pounds extra weight. It will help I promise. And honestly, I’ve found I usually enjoy strength training more than I enjoy cardio. Before I got into the gym, I thought I would hate strength training and would only like cardio. But it’s almost the opposite. I sometimes dread cardio.
- Focus on multiple/all areas- I’ve seen a lot of “It’s leg day” or “arm day”. Yes, you might want to target that area, but it honestly won’t do as much as you think. If you’re able to focus on multiple areas (usually at the same time), your body will do a lot better.
- Stretch- I need to get better at stretching before my workouts, but I stretch everything at the end, regardless if I worked it or not. Stretching helps you to be less sore and get used to using those muscles in that way.
Now that you know my tips, I wanted to include what my weekly workout looks like so that you can get ideas. There are lots of ones on Pinterest or Google depending on what you’re after. But here is what my week in the gym typically looks like:
- Sunday- There’s a 30-minute circuit at my gym with 10 weight machines and 10 things of cardio to work your full body. I do that, 10 minutes on the Stair Master, and stretch.
- Monday- Cardio: Walking/ Jogging on the treadmill; 10 minutes on the Stair Master; Stretch
- Tuesday: Strength Training: Free Weights (dumbbells); 10 minutes on the Stair Master; Stretch
- Wednesday: Cardio: Biking (Stationary or recumbent, I usually switch); 10 minutes on the Stair Master; Stretch
- Thursday: Strength Training: Weight Machines; 10 minutes on the Stair Master; Stretch
- Friday: Cardio: Rowing machine; 10 minutes on the Stair Master; Stretch
- Saturday- rest
You probably noticed I do the Stair Master every day. I’ve read that is one of the best things for fat loss, which is my goal. So I’m trying it out.
So these are just general tips in the realm of getting healthier. Not all of them will be directly related to the gym, but I feel they’re important to include.
- Drink water- Before I started going to the gym, I was drinking about 40 oz of water a day. I forced myself to get up to 64 oz, which is the usual recommendation. Now that I’m in the gym, I find that’s much easier to do. My bottle I use is 32 oz. I can usually drink one of those before lunch. Then I only have one more to go between lunch and the end of the day.
- Work on your eating too- Exercise is great, but if you’re trying to lose weight, it’s 80% eating, 20% exercise. Work to eat better. But on that note…
- Don’t call it “cheat days”- Cheating, to me, makes it seem like it’s a bad thing. You can be allowed to enjoy pizza, ice cream, junk food, and other things every now and then. The key is not to make that a habit and do it only in moderation.
- Allow yourself to rest- Saturday is my designated rest day. That’s usually the day I have plans with friends and/or family. By not worrying about making it into the gym on Saturdays, I can allow myself to relax and enjoy doing other things.
- Work on your sleep schedule- Going to bed and waking up roughly the same time each day is so beneficial to your health. Sleep is one of those sneaky things that help you to be healthier.
- Listen to your body- If something is too heavy or your body is too tired, it will let you know. It’s okay to take breaks and rest. Work up to what you can do and don’t be upset about the things you can’t do. You’ll get there.
- Know there is no “quick fix”- Getting healthier in any way takes time. Doing it right is a slow process. It won’t happen in just a month or week.
- Set attainable goals- Be realistic. With my body type and frame, if I were to lose more than probably 50 pounds, I would start bordering on unhealthy. I’m not looking to drop 4 or 5 sizes because that won’t be possible. Honestly, I’m not even really looking to drop more than one. Be realistic about your goals and they won’t seem so far away. I probably shouldn’t go for anything higher than dropping 50 pounds (and even then that might be too much).
- Don’t get so caught up on numbers- I hate weighing myself. The scale doesn’t tell the full story. I take my measurements and weigh myself once a month. If you’re a little more impatient than me, maybe once every two weeks or once every week. If you start doing it more than that, you won’t see progress because weight fluctuates and it won’t be drastic changes. Spacing out time between allows you to actually see what you’re doing.
- Focus on non-scale victories- These speak more to me than the numbers do. I already have more stamina and endurance. Some of my clothes fit better or are looser on me. I can extend my stretches deeper (that one was unexpected). I have more confidence. I’m enjoying my body. These won’t show up on the scale. And if I were to weigh myself right now, I probably haven’t lost as much weight as I expected. But I’m seeing progress in other ways that I know I’m doing well.
- Be proud of your body where it is- Yes, taking care of yourself is important, but that doesn’t mean you should hate yourself now. You’ll see progress in time.
- Know that every workout won’t be your best- Last Thursday, I got in my head a little bit. I don’t know quite what happened, but I could barely complete my workout. It just sucked a lot. That’s okay. We all have days like that. On those days, you do what you can, knowing that it’s your best at the time. The next day, I hit the rowing machine hard and I was able to do a lot better. It’s okay to have off days. Progress is still progress.
- You probably aren’t the most _______ in the gym- You can fill in the blank. Oldest, youngest, in shape, out of shape, etc. People in the gym come in all shapes and sizes, just as there is no one way to be healthy. And if you are, so what? The more you focus on you, the less time you’ll have to worry about others. Keep doing you and putting in the work.
Well I think that’s it! Good luck getting into the gym! As always, if you have questions or comments, don’t hesitate to reach out!
P.S. There will be no post next week because I will be out of town!